Headliners 1 – Emily Heller, Jak Knight, Liza Treyger and Ryan Hamilton

By Lisa Clark

For many years The MICF had very few guests from the USA and some of that was no doubt due to they’re not being used to our hour long festival format. Since Headliners has been a showcase for American comedians we’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of great performers who often pop up on the Comedy Channel in shows like @Midnight. Tonight was no exception.

The Charming mid-western boy now living in New York Ryan Hamilton opened the night making fun of the idea that Melbourne, often described to travellers as Australia’s New York, is anything like New York at all. He was kind enough to point out that a lot of aspects of Melbourne were better than New York’s to keep us on side, but Australians tend to travel a lot so most of us agreed with him. His style reminded me very much of Seinfeld but Seinfeld comedy being done by Kenny the Page from 30 Rock. This became particularly obvious when he was doing material about dating. He found it a little difficult to warm up the crowd, but soon got them on side with this great material about the difference between living in the Midwest and New York.

Emily Heller’s style was a lot less formal and more chatty and friendly, but with a sarcastic edge that reminded me a little of Judith Lucy. She went straight into what it’s like being American out in the world and feeling embarrassed about her President. Emily talks about her therapy and the more popular topic of dating, which seems very American but with Tinder young Australians are now doing this too.

Liza Treyger crossed the line from friendly to intrusive and took dating talk to another level, straight sex talk. It started fairly rough and a bit all over the place with drinking and the Holocaust but she gradually warmed to her topic of discussing sex openly with a confronting honesty and feminist edge. This is where she shone and either repulsed or won the audience. Most young female comedians are currently doing stuff about their sex life (thanks Amy Schumer) but this was some of the best I’ve seen. Outrageous with something to say, rather than for simple shock value and she was funny as well which is always good in a Comedy Festival show. She worked the crowd, trying to be inclusive by getting the audience involved with their opinions, which I’m guessing is much more difficult here than in America.

Jak Knight was all enthusiasm and a little confused about the lack of an equal level of enthusiasm he was getting back from the Sunday night Melbourne crowd. He notes amusingly that we have come to see Americans like they were on display in a zoo. He was very political, astute and funny, reminding me of a young Chris Rock. Jak was certainly dropping the N word more casually than we are used to hearing in a room we are in. His new President is making him keen to stay and we’d be pretty happy to keep him.

This is a pretty high level of performers brought out this year and a great chance to catch what’s happening in the American comedy scene, because at the moment you wouldn’t really want to go over there…

Headliners with this line up is on at the Lower Melbourne Town Hall until April 9